We don’t know how good we really have it.
This week’s edition of a “Month of Thanksgiving” will cover the origins Thanksgiving traditions in the US. Most of us here in the US have at least heard of the pilgrims and the Mayflower; however, it always surprises me how little people know about these early settlers and their first thanksgivings. As a descendent of these early settlers and growing up close to where they landed and lived I was forced to learn of their story from a very early age. Unfortunately so much of our history is lost as stories aren’t told to the newest generation. We can learn a lot from those who came before us, how they lived and died, how they worshiped and what they gave thanks for.
In August of 1620 two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell, left the United Kingdom in search of religious and social freedom in the “New World.” Not long after they embarked, the Speedwell was sabotaged. More than one hundred of the crew and passengers of both ships were combined with the remainder turning back. After more than two months at sea the ship anchored at Provincetown harbor at the tip of Cape Cod. They endured a rough winter with little food, bitter cold and skirmishes with the natives; starvation and illness took more than half the souls that reached the “New World” and in only four months. They scouted the Cape from November to December then settled at Plymouth, a recently abandoned native settlement.
Their first Thanksgiving took place a year later, at around October of 1621. This day of thanks included the settlers and the Wompanoag who had helped them. These early settlers had no such name for their solemn celebration of thanks and praise to God. The first recognized thanksgiving took place in the summer of 1623 and was still a celebration of solemn praise and prayer. Over the centuries this day has become more of a harvest festival than the original day of thanks the pilgrims experienced. These early celebrations of prayer, praise and feasting lasted three days. So what did they eat? Besides turkey their meal included other fowl, fish, lobster and deer. I wonder what they would think of how we celebrate this day and could they stomach the rich foods we eat now?
Which “first” Thanksgiving?
While the first Thanksgiving is attributed to the pilgrims at Plymouth this was not the first of its kind in the US. There is record of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia celebrating Thanksgiving as a religious celebration in 1610. It is also believed that the Spanish held a time of thanksgiving in the colonies in the 1500s.
The US Thanksgiving is often referred to as the origin of the festival; however, Thanksgiving has its roots in ancient harvest festival of ancient cultures including pagan cultures of early Europe, Egypt and the Jewish Sukkot rooted in the harvest festival and remembrance of God’s goodness and deliverance from Egypt. The idea of giving thanks to our Creator is not new; however, it has changed considerably over the past few centuries. I will touch on a few of harvest festivals in two weeks.
My week of thanks:
November 10 – I am thankful to my Mayflower ancestors; Myles & Rose Standish, John Alden & Pricilla Mullins Alden, William & Alice Mullins, and Henry Samson, without their courage and sacrifice I would not be where or who I am today.
November 11 – I am thankful for my parents, JoAnne & Wyatt, for raising me, and my mom for teaching me about Jesus
November 12 – I’m thankful for my grandparents, Phyllis “Meme” & Paul, for taking me in and caring for me in their old age. And MeMe for being my best friend.
November 13 – I’m thankful for the saints who sacrificed much for me to have a bible and religious freedom so that I may now worship God without persecution.
November 14 – I am thankful for the Atkins diet and the improved health and energy I now enjoy
November 15 – I am thankful for the internet that I can share and
learn, and for all my WordPress friends. I have truly enjoyed your comments over the past year.
November 16 – I am thankful now…this minute…that I can actually enjoy a rare moment of silence and solitude.
In next week’s post I’ll discuss some contemporary Thanksgiving traditions.
**Disclaimer…I’m not a historian and what I know is from stories, a few primary documents and information from Plimoth Plantation and Pilgrim Hall Museum. I’m not claiming this information is completely accurate, there is a lot of controversy around Thanksgiving and the lives of the early settlers. I’d check out Hankering for History for more information on the myths.